Seattle Central College welcomed District 3 city council candidates Joy Hollingsworth and Alex Hudson to debate at Broadway Performance Hall Tuesday, Oct. 10. Moderated by journalists Greg Copeland of King 5, Cesar Canizales of Converge Media and Hannah Kim of FOX 13, the debate started with each candidate’s 90-second opening statements before the moderators asked about issues facing Seattle voters.
Homelessness in Seattle
Referring to the city’s recent allocation of $153.7 million to fight the homelessness crisis, Greg Copeland asked the candidates if they thought the money was well-spent, and what, if anything, they’d do differently.
Alex Hudson began by saying, “we need to get closer to the root causes of homelessness and the actual solutions at scale. We need to be doing things like standing up shelters immediately. We need transitional housing, and we need programs that are able to connect with people, build trust, and get people inside.”
Joy Hollingsworth said, “It’s an affordable housing issue. We also have a mental health crisis on our street… a drug disorder, and we have a group of vulnerable people preying on folks… We have to have more emergency shelters. RV car lots, day centers for people to be able to go connect to resources. We also have to have this place where people can be able to go get treatment for the fentanyl crisis that we see on our streets.”
Copeland asked the candidates where those should be built in Seattle and in District 3, and why, but both candidates talked around the issue without answering the question.
Copeland said, “You both answered part of the question, but we didn’t get very specific, and I think when people start thinking about District 3 specifically, it’s very diverse, much different up north than it is down south… Building more affordable housing in one of those areas is going to get more pushback than others. How do you build affordable housing in, say, Montlake? And tell the people who are there, [who] don’t want to see a multi-family house or a unit come in, how do you tell them, ‘that’s just the way it is. It has to go there. We have to find a place to build these homes.’?”
“People in Montlake are feeling the squeeze,” Hudson responded, “One way we can help is to create automatic templates of housing… We can work with our architecture and history departments to create templates of multi-family housing that are beautiful, reflect our history, look like our architecture and come with a very fast permit.”
“Some of the neighborhoods you’re talking about, whether it’s Montlake, Madrona, a lot of those neighborhoods are thinking about affordability because their property taxes are going up,” followed Hollingsworth. “These are middle-class folks who are trying to make ends meet and they are slipping down lower and lower… They’re getting squeezed. And so they’re asking me about, ‘Hey, how can I be able to turn my house into a triplex or duplex?’And I think we need to embrace that and encourage that.”
Moderator Hannah Kim asked, “On a scale from one to 10, what is your opinion about the severity of crime in Seattle? One being the least safe and 10 being the most safe.”
“Depends on the day,” Hudson answered. “There’s far too much suffering and misery in our streets, and it’s affecting all of us… We create the addiction health hubs that are necessary to connect people who are suffering with addiction to save their lives and get them connected to the support that they need and deserve,” Hudson went on, avoiding the question, to which Kim replied, “I do want to get your opinion and I think it’s important because, like you said, crime is sometimes perspective… So when you’re walking around Seattle, you said you’re a mom, you use transit, how do you feel from one to 10?”
“I feel sad and disappointed,” continued Hudson, still avoiding the question, “I oftentimes feel afraid. I would love to be able to send my kid to the park without a second thought. Or to not have her come home after school with some story about something that shouldn’t happen… I feel this issue as much as anyone, it’s clearly affecting everyone. I also have plenty of lovely experiences here in our beautiful district, and I know that that doesn’t excuse the things that do happen, but it is a lovely place.”
“So you don’t want to pick a number?” asked Kim, who then directed the question to Hollingsworth.
“I’m at a 10,” started Hollingsworth, who then realized she meant number one in the scale, meaning the least safe. “Look, public safety, whether we understand it consciously or subconsciously, affects us. What time you’re going to the grocery store, where you park in your car, you’re circling the blocks two times to figure out where you’re parking it. Where you’re walking down the street. This is what we’re experiencing right now… I support the Mayor’s plan for 1,400 police officers.”
Kim moved on to the next question. “I want to specifically zone in on Capitol Hill,” Kim said. “When you look at the number as of September of this year, you had 1613 cases of crime, and that’s both violent and property crime, in Capitol Hill alone. And what would be interesting to District 3 is that that is actually higher. It’s the highest number of cases.
It’s even more than downtown Seattle right now, so what would you do specifically in the Capitol Hill area that would make people safer?”
“One of the things about Capitol Hill is this is home to the East precinct,” Hudson responded, “and so our police officers are right here in this neighborhood… We need mental and behavioral health centers so that people who are very sick in our streets and who are causing a lot of disruption have somewhere that they can go and get the treatment that they need…We need to be investing in our small businesses… We need to build more housing for folks. We can have things like they have in the University District, where they have neighborhood ambassadors. We can increase the lighting and increase through Safety Through Environmental Design.”
Hollingsworth replied, saying, “Cal Anderson Park has to have better lighting. That place has become, unfortunately, at night, a place where a lot of activity has happened. We do have an East Precinct, but at any point in time, they have 12 officers, and they ride in units of cars, double, pair, so it’s six units out there. They’re all responding to a priority one call, which is like the car that ran through one of the retail shops here on Capitol Hill through the front door. All of [the officers] are at that one place, and so there’s other places they cannot respond to.”
On the subject of affordable housing, Cesar Canizales asked, “Who would build the housing that is needed, and how would it be funded?”
“When we’re thinking about new tax streams,” Hollingsworth said, “one of them is a CEO tax that we can implement. A high earners’ tax… We also need to lean on our federal government, as we’re seeing this influx of population to be able to provide some affordable housing.”
“It’s quite a daunting task,” Hudson said, “and the government itself can’t take it all on, but there is of course a role for the public sector, both in helping to support our Office of Housing, Seattle Housing Authority, but also in supporting the Social Housing Initiative, which is a transition towards a permanent supportive housing source. We also need to keep investing in our non profit sector through things like our housing levy, which is going to be on your ballot in November, and help us to create deeply important investments in folks with the lowest incomes, that 50 percent AMI and below.”
“In the last decade, many community members who live in the Central District, and Black or low income areas have been pushed out or displaced due to gentrification,” Canizales moved forward. “White and wealthy neighborhoods have remained largely untouched. Some of that displacement was also caused by new housing developments. How would you balance the need for more housing?”
“We have seen changeful levels of displacement and gentrification in the Central District and throughout South Seattle,” said Hudson. “Part of that is because, as you mentioned, the wealthy white neighborhoods have been able to successfully prevent additional housing being built in their communities. That needs to stop.We also need to make sure that we’re protecting and bringing folks back through things like the right of first return, like at the Liberty Bank project. We need to be doing automatic enrollment and property tax referrals so elders can have their costs brought down…We need to make it so that black developers can get in on this too, right? So that Black people are not just recipients of housing, but get to build intergenerational wealth through both homeownership and development.”
“This one is really passionate to me,” started Hollingsworth, “Just because I’ve seen our neighborhood change significantly in the Central District, and been on the forefront of trying to ensure that a lot of our neighbors that look like me are able to keep their home and be able to age in place and pass it down to generations after generations… There’s a lot of people that want to do that, but they don’t know how. They didn’t have the funds. They didn’t have the technical assistance to be able to do that. If we can offer more innovative programming that is able to transition people that can age in place and be able to turn their house into different types of multi-family housing units. You know, you have your Liberty Bank and you also have Africatown that’s done a phenomenal job of bringing homes and people back and forth.”
“When old houses are torn down to build townhouses, developers typically build townhomes or luxury apartments, people get priced out,” Canizales said to Hudson. What actions would you take to make sure developers build housing that people can actually afford?”
“People get priced out because we haven’t built enough housing. We’ve allowed for a very cruel game of musical chairs to occur… We need to make sure that we are increasing the supply of housing so we’re adding more chairs to that game. We can incentivize expansions of our multifamily tax exemption, so that existing buildings can provide up to 3,000 units of affordable housing that are currently locked away. So, there’s quite a number of solutions here that really involve making sure everybody has access.”
“One of the ways that we can be able to create more affordability within our district is by incentivizing family housing and being able to also incentivize flats and condos,” Hollingsworth added. “I know we have a lot of townhomes in our city because we have to build very skinny and very tall, but [we need to] incentivize condos being built. Also, besides streamlining the permitting process, this is one thing that’s really important that we don’t think about, is also working with our Seattle Public Utilities, and how the developers are able to connect to a sewer line or the electrical line.”
“When you talk to a lot of business owners in Seattle, and not just District 3, they say that they don’t get the police response time sometimes to property crimes,” Kim began. “So what would you do differently to draw people to the Seattle Police Department?”
“We need to get more ambitious about standing up our alternative response model,” Hudson said. “We’ve been waiting years for the city to roll this out and they just did last week and there’s six people that are staffed in it. A police officer has to come first, so it’s not alleviating the pressure, it’s just contributing to it. We need to have reform in our police department so that our police officers are always acting impeccably with the highest level of professional standards. That will help to recruit police officers.”
“I believe that the tone of the council needs to change,” Hollingsworth said. “While that changes, and shifts, I’m hoping that that will be able to attract a different type of officer. A different type of culture. Not talking about, you know, warriors, we’re talking about guarding. It’s different, it’s a different shift. We need to support programs where people get connected to communities before they’re in crisis. So they connect with the Black community, whether it’s the south end community, LGBTQIA community, and they engage.
“How do you get police officers to come work in a place where they don’t feel like they’re wanted?”
“Well, one, I talk about the tone of the council,” Hollingsworth replied, “I think what’s really important too is amplifying voices that are severely impacted by when we take certain policing out of communities, right? They’re impacted significantly higher because what you want for your neighborhood might be different for what a neighborhood actually needs. And so I want to amplify those voices who have been screaming, who have been chatting, who have been pledging for positive relationships.”
“I think we need to bring back our beat cop model,” Hudson said. “Right now, far too many of our police officers are spending their time in their cars, and that makes it really hard to get to build those trust and relationships with small business owners, with neighborhood stakeholders, with residents… We can also be helping with things like creating community oversight programs that are all helpful in forging those relationships so that police officers are serving and protecting their community, which of course I believe the vast majority of them are trying to do.”
Requesting specificity on the topic of public transportation, Kim asked, “if you were a council member, what is the very first transit policy that you would sponsor if you got that seat?”
“For me, it’s about public safety,” Hollingsworth said. “We would make it more affordable for a lot of the bus drivers, and a lot of the service operators, and maintenance workers to be able to afford to live in our city with workforce housing. So you don’t have those missing ghost buses.”
“One thing we need to be really clear about here is what the city can do to increase transit reliability,” Hudson said. “We are taking people’s time, we are driving people away from transit, and we are making it so that you can’t come on that ride. I want to see us allocating more of our right of way to increase transit reliability.”
“If we want to spend a lot of money on these programs, though,” continued Kim, “first people need to use it. How do you convince people to get out of their cars and use public transit in the first place right now?”
“Right now we are experiencing a lack of reliability,” stated Hudson. “They are experiencing a lack of rider dignity. We don’t have safe and clean stations. We don’t have basic bathrooms for people to be able to make transit a usable choice for so many of us,”, addressing a pressing issue which reminded me of a graffiti I saw in the Roosevelt Light Rail station, “can we get a trash can?” “We don’t have the assurance that transit is going to get us where we need to go.”
“We have to make it safe for people to feel like they would love to ride transit,” Hollingsworth followed. “I have a mom who would love to ride transit, but she does not feel safe. We’ve seen what happened at the Beacon Hill light rail station. We’ve seen what happened over in West Seattle. And so we have to make it safe. for people to be able to jump on transit and, and especially our vulnerable communities.”
What Students Thought
After the debate, I spoke with Eli Alvarado and Rebecca Müller, who are both in their first quarter at SCC.
“I was a debater in high school,” said Alvarado. “I went to state and nationals, and I really wanted to see a debate in real life.” Unfortunately, the experience didn’t live up to Alvarado’s expectations. “Honestly I was a little disappointed,” he said, “because it wasn’t really a debate, they didn’t really talk to each other. I think their views were really similar.”
“I’m from Germany and I came here three weeks ago,” said Müller. “I’m really interested in politics in Germany and don’t think I know enough about politics in America, so I wanted to visit a local debate,”. Müller also left the debate less than thrilled. “I was disappointed because questions like ‘where are we gonna build all these houses’ they didn’t really answer,” she said.
“I was disappointed that they didn’t talk about health care very much. Especially when Alex told us her story, and I really found it impressive but she didn’t really talk about it. I wish that she would bring more of her personal experience,” completed Müller.
“I submitted five questions… They kind of promised a lot of things and I was interested in asking ‘how are you gonna be able to accomplish that?” says Alvarado, “But it’s really inspiring. As a Person of Color I really resonated with what Joy was saying, and it’s really inspiring to see a public speaker. I do think she could have answered questions a little better.”
I asked Greg Copeland, one of the moderators, whether he thought the candidates answered the questions efficiently and directly. “Efficiently yes,” Copeland replied, “directly not as much.” He went on to say, “some questions are easier than others, some of them are intentionally vague just to see how well they know the district and the issue. If you ask too pointed of a question sometimes you get too pointed of an answer.”
When I brought up questions that the candidates avoided, Copeland added that that should tell the voter something. “It should tell them that that candidate is either out of touch or doesn’t wanna answer.”
Copeland also shared that it was his first time moderating a debate. “I love the process, he said. “I don’t live in District 3, but even in doing this I feel more about the district’s challenges, by listening to the candidates [who were] passionate… What I really, really liked was that there were no attacks. It was all about ‘here’s what I feel.’”
The debate was live streamed in its entirety, which you can find here.
Holding the debate at Seattle Central made it accessible to residents of District 3 as well as our student body, which is not only a diverse community but it’s also the future of Capitol Hill, of Seattle, of America, and of the world.
Errata: an earlier version of this story referred to Cesar Canizales of Converge Media as Cesar Gonzalez.
Sophia is an internationally published author with her book Primeira Pessoa, as well as a young classical singer. Born and raised in Brazil, music, writing, and Astronomy are her greatest passions. She believes the greatest role of a writer is to bring forth the truth, the honesty, and the humanity that echoes within each one of us. Journalism, while Art, is for her a portrait of the fraternity of the Earth. At the moment, she works for both The Seattle Collegian and the M. Rosetta Hunter Art Gallery, while completing her AA degree with a focus on Anthropology & English.